Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Winter Magic: Wayside first-graders sing about the season

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Christos Margas played Frosty the Snowman during the first-grade winter concert at Wayside Elementary School in Potomac last month. He ran up and down the stage in front of his singing classmates.
Music rang out from schools across the county last month as music classes entertained parents and fellow students with performances highlighting songs they learned during the semester.

‘‘We have something going on at pretty much every grade level,” said Yong-Mi Kim, principal at Wayside Elementary School in Potomac. ‘‘We are not an arts school but we try to provide a full program, not just academics.”

First-graders at the school presented a Winter Wonderland Concert in December, celebrating the season with songs and poetry.

‘‘We wanted to celebrate the changing of the season, so we picked a winter theme,” said Heather Showers, first-grade teacher and team leader.

Learning about the weather is part of the first-grade curriculum. And winter weather, with temperature extremes, the possibility of snow and many seasonal songs, fit the bill perfectly.

Music teacher Helen Flagg worked with the students throughout the fall to prepare. She first worked with individual classes then brought the children together so they could get used to singing as a group.

The Wayside concert and winter concerts at schools throughout the county help students and teachers achieve one of the curriculum objectives for music students, according to Lillian Pailen, coordinator for elementary and secondary general and choral music for Montgomery County Public Schools.

‘‘These performance opportunities enable students to showcase musical skills they have been learning in the classroom,” she said in an e-mail. ‘‘Students learn teamwork skills, self-discipline and, in the case of choral music, techniques for blending their voices so that a chorus of many sound like ‘one voice.’”

All the preparation is worthwhile, according to Flagg.

‘‘This is an opportunity to showcase the work the students do to their parents and to have the parents become engaged with the school,” she said.

On the day of the program, the school’s all-purpose room was filled with parents and grandparents, almost every one with a camera, as the first-graders walked in wearing scarves and mittens, gloves and boots along with dark pants and white shirts.

‘‘We decided to scale it back, no hats, because it got too hot,” said Jennifer Rudolph, a first-grade teacher.

The students may have felt hot on stage but their manner was cool and their singing was loud and clear. Maybe it was the subject of the songs — each one mentioned snow more than once — or maybe it was the hours of practice.

‘‘It’s been a wonderful effort to see them focus to learn the words to the songs,” said Demaris Baker, mother of Nicholas, 6. ‘‘He was extremely happy and excited, he couldn’t wait to come to school today.”

Nikkia Zarabian, 6, was also happy with the show.

‘‘I sang and I think all of the [songs] were good,” she said.

Her classmate, Nicholas Robinson, 6, introduced the last song of the concert, ‘‘Winter Fantasy.”

‘‘I spoke for our last song, it is my favorite, I just like it,” Nicholas said afterward.

Both Nikkia and Nicholas said they like snow. Their favorite thing about snow is making snowmen they said after singing ‘‘Frosty the Snowman.”

During the song first-grader Christos Margas ‘‘came to life” with his stovepipe hat and carrot nose, dancing across the floor until it was time to melt back into the group and possibly ‘‘come back again some day.”

Between songs, students recited poems about snow and took turns introducing the music.

‘‘I thought the concert was sensational, it was spirit filled and a sheer delight,” said Liston Baylor, mother of Colby, 6.

Flagg was proud of her students.

‘‘I think they did a marvelous job,” Flagg said. ‘‘I love working with them.”